Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2016-12-23


Arca: Entranas (self-released, 2016) Translates Entrails. Streamable at Soundcloud, downloadable at Mediafire. Divides 25 minutes into 14 untimed titles I estimate as breaking 0:00, 0:48, 2:40, 3:58; 4:29, 5:06, 5:28, 6:15-6:48, 10:38, 13:10, 13:50, 15:24, ???, 20:49, 24:10, and damn right I could be wrong, although not about 5:28. Since Alejandro Ghersi once took a class from me, discretion suggested that I respectfully note the existence of this unballyhooed abstract work from a sonic universe I seldom sample and leave it at that. But as has happened before with Arca, who's too big a deal to need my belated attention, I enjoyed its sounds too much not to say so--the lowing of "Torero," the booming of "Cement Garden Interlude," the preindustrial clatter of "Pargo." I also enjoyed Micachu's reflections on gender identity in 5:28's "Baby Doll." To simulate closure, however, it relies on the kind of choirboy soprano that's signified transcendence, spirituality, and other such rot since there were castrati who were known as such, and as ever I'm unconvinced. A-

The Avalanches: Wildflower (Astralwerks, 2016) Their rude sense of humor beats their banal sense of beauty and their unlikely song finds beat their incalculable musical appropriations, so keep your ear on Wilmouth Houdini whenever they give you the chance ("Frankie Sinatra," "The Noisy Eater," "Subways") **

Bon Iver: 22, a Million (Jagjaguwar, 2016) So much cuter when his voice is a high pitch in the soundscape rather than a conveyor of putative verbal content ("666[bent downward arrow or else some emoji I'm too uncool to recognize]," "21 MOON WATER") *

Burial: "Young Death"/"Nightmarket" (Hyperdub EP, 2016) Two more soundscapes about vinyl and clinical depression, unofficially entitled Young Death: It Never Gets Old **

Earth, Wind & Fire: The Classic Christmas Album (Legacy, 2015) Why the hell not? ("Joy to the World," "Sleigh Ride," "Get Your Hump on This Christmas") *

Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra: Time/Life (Impulse, 2016) In a farewell so posthumous electric bassist Steve Swallow replaces him on the three Carla Bley-composed tracks, the great humanitarian tells the planet he loves it so ("Time/Life," "Song for the Whales") ***

Horse Lords: Interventions (Northern Spy, 2016) The allure of the cycle--for avant-garde guitar minimalists, an oldie so goody ("Truthers," "Time Slip") *

Populous: Night Safari (Bad Panda/Folk Wisdom, 2014) The Italian soundscaper who got my attention kicking off the Senegambia Rebel comp begins a little electro-arpeggiated for my taste but by track three starts shading "tribal," as electro-arpeggiation fans like to sniff. I say it's nicely weird from there till the two richly climactic tracks: "Night Safari," in which crickets introduce drumlike rhythm figures that slowly gain volume, detail, and authority, and "Brasilia," a multilayered, multivocal urban showcase worth building in the right savannah. A-

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